In five polls conducted February 4-8 that include data from the 7th and 8th, after Saturday’s debate, undecideds show up as 8 percent of GOP voters. About 50% of the respondents were reached after the debate. These people aren’t able to express their candidate preference to a pollster, but they do have pretty much all the evidence they are going to get from the candidates themselves. They probably have some preference, but we just can’t find out what it is by asking.
Donald Trump appears to be far in front, at 31%. His lead is 17 percentage points, just about what it’s been since the beginning of August. After that, the undecideds could easily scramble the order of the runners-up… Five candidates have poll medians that are within 8 percentage points of one another: Marco Rubio (14%), John Kasich (13%), Ted Cruz (11%), Jeb Bush (10%), and Chris Christie (6%). (One-sigma uncertainties are plus or minus 0.8 to 2.0 percentage points except for Christie, whose nominal uncertainty is 0.4 percentage point.) These candidates are likely to finish in second though sixth place – but probably not in the order I have listed them.
i am marco rub i o i am mar co rub i o i am mar co rub i o marco o rub i o rub i o io io io io io io *explodes*
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 7, 2016
Marco Rubio faces media blowback from his debate performance, in which Governor Chris Christie trapped Rubio in a loop repeating “let’s dispel with the notion that Obama doesn’t know what he is doing” four times. Even so, Rubio’s support has held steady. He got about a three percentage point bounce the day after the Iowa caucuses. This jump held after Saturday’s debate – totally flat, actually. However, I wonder whether he will pick up many undecideds.
At Stanford’s election law symposium last weekend, Republican macher Ben Ginsberg expressed the general impression that candidates tend to stay in for one round of primaries past the time when it is clear that they should drop out. That would suggest Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson getting out just about now.
However, I am not sure about any of the above-listed non-Trump candidates exiting the race after today. Cruz is in to stay. Kasich has risen slowly since the new year, and a strong finish today would keep him in the race. In fact, I give Kasich an even-odds chance of ending up in second place. Already that’s four candidates – a threshold I have identified as problematic for the Republican Party.
Alternatively, Jeb Bush could pick up a few points, and decide to stick around along with his super-PAC money. Christie’s support is pretty low, but he had so much fun in Saturday’s debate that he will need a pretty hard push to get out. All in all, it seems likely that after New Hampshire, the field will remain divided for a while longer. And since loopholes in the GOP primary rules make delegate selection far from proportional, everyone but Trump will basically continue to be hosed.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is at a median of 55%, and Hillary Clinton is at 43%. For both of them, the one-sigma uncertainty is 2 percentage points. An upset victory by Clinton looks highly unlikely…but if she held Sanders to a single-digit margin of victory, that would be considered a strong showing in a state that is almost as white as Sanders’s neighboring state of Vermont.